New music aims to raise the profile of the double bass

A new piece of music aims to raise the profile of the double bass. The tones and range of this often-underrated instrument are explored in Leo Geyer’s new work ‘Water Boatman’.

Inspired by the aquatic insect’s ability to swim and also to fly, the piece takes full advantage of the huge span that the double bass can cover. The music depicts the water boatman’s journey as it travels from the depths of the water to the surface, and eventually takes flight. 

Leo Geyer is a young composer with a passion for imaginative, daring and dramatic approaches to music-making.

The piece for solo double bass has been commissioned by The Musicians’ Company as part of the Young Artists’ Programme and is played by virtuoso player Toby Hughes.

Composed and filmed in lockdown, ‘Water boatman’ is played with a loop pedal which allows the performer to create layers of sound during a live performance. The full range of voices of the instrument can be heard in one piece.

Composer Leo Geyer said:
“Toby and I worked together on this piece during lockdown, exploring ideas and concepts over Zoom. We wanted to create a piece which showcases the expressiveness and virtuosity of the double bass, which led us to explore using a loop pedal. The result is a layering of lines which come and go, often reconsidered in different harmonic contexts to illustrate the water boatman’s journey to the sky.”

As well as performing Leo Geyer’s new piece, Toby Hughes has recorded a CD which aims to showcase the repertoire for double bass. 

Toby Hughes said:
“I feel very lucky that Leo has written Water Boatman which explores the full range of the instrument in one piece. The double bass is not just a deeper sounding cello – it has its own sonorous tone and it’s much more versatile than many people realise. There are some beautiful pieces for double bass which are not often heard. I’m on a mission to raise the profile of this misunderstood instrument.”

Water Boatman begins with a dark deep tone, reflecting the depths of the water, and describes the journey of the insect, with voices rolling underneath each other as it comes to the surface and then flies as the double bass transports the listener to different harmonic spheres. 

Water Boatman will be available on The Musician’s Company YouTube channel from Wed 24 Feb.


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Notes for editors

Leo Geyer is a young composer and conductor with a passion for imaginative, daring and dramatic approaches to music-making, encompassing new work, interdisciplinary collaborations and re-imaginings of existing music. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of Constella OperaBallet, Music Director for the Devon Philharmonic Orchestra, and works as a guest artist internationally. He is also the Senior Music Scholar at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford studying for a doctorate in opera-ballet composition. His music has been performed across the world, including his opera ‘The Mermaid of Zennor’, described by The Times as “imaginative and beautifully shaped”.

Toby Hughes is a double bass soloist. He won the 2013 Chandos Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Young Musician of the Year’ and in 2014 was the first double bassist to win the string section of the Royal Over-Seas League Competition. In 2016 he won the Bromsgrove International Competition and in 2018 the Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists Competition. 

Toby has performed with major international orchestras both in Europe and the UK. He has been awarded support from The Tillett Trust, The Musicians’ Company and Making Music, and his recital engagements have included appearances at Wigmore Hall, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, The Edinburgh Festival and at Queen Elizabeth Hall. He has been a City Music Foundation artist since 2018 and his debut CD will be released later this year on the Champs Hill Record label.

The Musicians’ Company, also known as The Worshipful Company of Musicians’ is the only City of London Livery Company dedicated to the performing arts. They nurture and support emerging musicians through prizes, bursaries, scholarships, and awards given to music students of the highest calibre, awarding around £200,000/year.

The Young Artists’ Programme is a scheme for musicians who have won one of their awards.  It supports musicians during the vital first few years of professional practice and allows them to share their skills and passion with the wider community through participation work.

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